If you plan to use a ventless fireplace to save money, make sure you consider the safety concerns.
Some service providers say unvented fireplaces burn more efficiently than their vented gas-powered counterparts and cost less to install. Other providers and organizations contend that ventless fireplaces are unsafe or otherwise undesirable.
The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors warns that these fireplaces necessarily vent unburned combustion products — including carbon monoxide — directly into the living space. Although most vent free manufacturers install an oxygen-detection sensor designed to automatically shut the fireplace down if oxygen levels in the home become too low, a lot is riding on that sensor working. NACHI recommends having the unit inspected before use.
While no deaths from vent free fireplace incidents have been reported, NACHI says, some municipalities have restricted or outlawed vent-free fireplaces. The District of Columbia bans the fireplaces in bedrooms and bathrooms, and California banned all ventless fireplaces because of the risks, but no other states outlaw their use.
“They put out tons of heat and they’re 100 percent efficient, but they use oxygen in the room and put out carbon monoxide, and they smell terrible,” says Bill Yeager, owner of Yeager Gas Fireplace Service in Fredericksburg, Va. “It’s like a car running in the house,” Yeager says. He says he had a ventless fireplace in his own home for five years and installs and services them, but he typically steers customers to other options.